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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Entrepreneur led many firms

Thomas A. DeVilbiss II, 70, an entrepreneur and a former executive with the Toledo firm his great-grandfather founded, died of pancreatic cancer Monday in his Royal Oaks, Calif., home.

He and his wife, Judy, formerly of Sylvania Township, moved to northern California in 1989. He worked with his wife in a vitamin-mineral supplement company she opened.

He was not yet 20 when he joined DeVilbiss Co., founded in 1888 by Dr. Allen DeVilbiss.

Mr. DeVilbiss became a company director in 1963. His father, Howard, was chairman and president of the firm, a leading manufacturer of atomizers and spray-painting equipment.

DeVilbiss was sold to Champion Spark Plug Co. in 1967 and, within a few years, Thomas DeVilbiss sought new ventures.

"Maybe it's my upbringing, but working for somebody else is not the way I'm made," Mr. DeVilbiss told The Blade.

He bought a window-making company in 1972 and renamed it Craftline Corp. He became owner-manager of Elden Draperies, now owned by his daughter, Betsy, and Thrifty Transmission.

"He liked accomplishing things," his wife said. "He liked taking things that were small and building them into something that was big."

He was a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School, attended Miami University, and served in the Navy. He had leadership posts with the Neighborhood Improvement Foundation of Toledo Inc., Junior Achievement of Northwestern Ohio, and the Kidney Foundation.

His interests included penny stocks, politics, talk radio, and sailing. A 70th birthday celebration last February began at the Daytona 500 and concluded with a view of fireworks from a cabana in Miami's South Beach.

"He had a favorite quote: 'Every day's a holiday, and every meal's a banquet.' Thank God Tom lived that way," his wife said.

Mr. DeVilbiss' previous marriage to Virginia Beck ended in divorce.

Surviving are his wife, Judy, whom he married April 20, 1967; sons, Tad, Greg, Steven, and Jeffery DeVilbiss; daughter, Betsy DeVilbiss Grubb, and four granddaughters.

There will be no visitation or services.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.

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